Singapore GP preview: Will sparks fly under Marina Bay floodlights?

A graphic of the Marina Bay street circuit

The thrilling races keep coming thick and fast in a season that looked destined to be labelled a dud not so long ago.

Following on from his maiden Formula 1 victory in Belgium a week earlier, Charles Leclerc managed to do what only Lewis Hamilton had achieved so far this year: win back-to-back races.

In front of the passionate tifosi, the 21-year-old held off the Mercedes challenge of both Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at the Italian Grand Prix to take the chequered flag for Ferrari - their first at Monza since Fernando Alonso triumphed in 2010.

Leclerc faced criticism for forcing Hamilton off the road in the braking zone at the second chicane - but the win stood.

A revival of the black-and-white warning flag - or the 'motorsport equivalent of a yellow card' - opened up an F1 can of worms over what is considered 'hard racing' and the lack of consistency over which incidents should be instantly penalised.

The drivers' and constructors' championships still remain in the firm grip of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, however, with the Briton now 63 points ahead of team-mate Bottas, and the team 154 points clear of nearest rivals Ferrari.

As the European leg of the season is put to bed, Sebastian Vettel will be praying for a return to form and an end to the clumsy mistakes that have plagued the four-time world champion's season.

A rookie spin at Ascari, followed by a clumsy rejoin onto the track resulting in a collision with the Racing Point of Lance Stroll, warranted three penalty points for the German, putting him three away from a race ban.

Is Singapore's physically demanding track the best place for Vettel to make amends? Or is it Max Verstappen's chance to take the fight to Lewis Hamilton instead? Let's have a look...

Give me the night

The Marina Bay Street Circuit announced itself to F1 in 2008 and was handed the honour of hosting the sport's first night-time race.

Set against the backdrop of the stunning Singapore skyline, and with 1,600 custom-made floodlights illuminating the circuit, it's a feast for the eyes and the senses.

If a driver has over-indulged and is carrying a few extra 'pizza pounds' from the Italian Grand Prix, then Marina Bay is the place to shift them.

The temperature in Singapore often exceeds 30C and with a sweat-inducing 80% humidity, drivers have to endure temperatures of about 50C in the cockpit.

Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez and Lando Norris
Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez and Lando Norris show the level of training needed just to get through a race weekend in Singapore

Former McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne once described the grand prix as the 'Singapore Sauna', while Bottas said a driver can "lose three and a half kilos" during the race.

Throw in some long-sleeve underwear, a balaclava, then a race suit on top of that, and it's no wonder Hamilton declared: "It's just so hot, man."

With a bumpy track layout and 23 corners to contend with, Singapore is one of the most physically demanding races on the calendar.

The intricate corners are approached at a lower speed than most during the season, and with the walls feeling claustrophobically close, a wrong move by one car often sees multiple drivers taken out of the equation at the same time.

Marina Bay Street Circuit
With so many intricate corners in Singapore, Haas' Kevin Magnussen warns: "You're not able to relax anywhere."

Singapore is also a formidable challenge for the team operation as a whole, as the event at Marina Bay sits back-to-back with a 4,156-mile trip to the Russian Grand Prix a week later.

There has only been one wet race in the history of the Singapore Grand Prix, which produced a dramatic, opening-lap tangle between Verstappen's Red Bull and the two Ferraris of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in 2017.

Although conditions are still predicted to be warm and humid, early weather forecasts suggest a slight chance of some 'light rain showers' across the weekend.

What's the form guide for Singapore?

The trip to Asia will either be a shot at redemption for some drivers, or a chance to build on a great performance from the previous outing at Monza.

For Vettel, looking for a much needed boost of confidence, his record at the 11 grands prix held in Singapore is not too shabby.

The German is tied with Lewis Hamilton on four wins and four pole positions at Marina Bay, with three victories secured consecutively between 2011 and 2013 during his successful time at Red Bull.

On the downside, last year's grand prix saw Vettel on the end of some questionable strategy calls from Ferrari, after a hard-earned overtake on Max Verstappen for second place was let slip in the wake of a wrong tyre selection.

With the tight and twisty nature of the track not best suited to straight-line dominance of the Ferraris, it could be a heavyweight fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen this weekend.

The Dutchman started at the back of the grid in Italy as a result of a penalty for excessive engine usage, but still finished a respectable eighth to add to his points tally.

With Verstappen and Red Bull a good tip to take a third win of the season in Singapore, the team have opted for the full complement of the soft tyre compound.

The durable, red band tyres were the winning boots Hamilton and Mercedes strapped on 12 months ago to out-fox Vettel and Ferrari on their way to victory.

In the midfield battle, Renault are riding high after Daniel Ricciardo finished an impressive fourth in Italy, with team-mate Nico Hulkenberg just behind in fifth place.

The French team's best result since returning to Formula 1 in 2016 has seen them close in on rivals McLaren in the hunt for fourth spot in the constructors' championship.

McLaren have picked up one point from the Belgian and Italian races, but team principal Andreas Seidl says the focus is on preparations for next year's car, and not the battle with Renault.

Red-hot chilies, bubbles and an ocean drive

It's not all about fast cars for fans at Marina Bay this weekend.

The Singapore Grand Prix has positioned itself as the F1 equivalent of Glastonbury festival, showcasing some of the biggest - and most diverse - names in music and entertainment.

Muse and Red Hot Chili Peppers will headline shows alongside award-winning composer Hans Zimmer and everyone's favourite '90s easy listening band… Lighthouse Family.

On a quirkier note, acts such as The Bubble Pirate and The Rhett and Tilly Show - a brother and sister duo whose act is described as a mix of "comedy, acrobatics, dexterity, co-ordination and balance in the most ridiculous of ways" - will also feature.

If ever a weekend was made for Formula 1's social media king, Lando Norris, to bless us with some behind-the-scenes content, then this is it.

Lighthouse Family Ocean Drive cover 24 years ago
When Ocean Drive was released 24 years ago, six drivers on the current grid weren't even born

How to follow on the BBC

BBC Sport has live coverage of practice, qualifying and the race, across the website and BBC Radio 5 Live. There will be live digital coverage on the BBC Sport website and app - including audience interaction, expert analysis, debate, features, interviews and audio content.

You can follow all the action and the latest news on the BBC Sport F1 page and via the BBC Sport app, and catch up with analysis and interviews with the BBC Radio 5 Live Chequered Flag podcast.

Singapore Grand Prix coverage details (all times BST)
DateSessionTimeRadio coverageOnline text commentary
Chequered Flag podcast: Sinagpore Grand Prix review - download here once the race has finished
Thursday, 19 September Preview 21:30-22:00 - Listen hereBBC Radio 5 Live
Friday, 20 SeptemberFirst practice09:25-11:05BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra From 09:00
Second practice13:25-15:05BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra From 13:00
Saturday, 21 SeptemberFinal practice10:55 - 12:05BBC Sport website & app From 10:30
Qualifying13:25-15:05BBC Sport website & app From 12:30
Sunday, 22 SeptemberRace13:00 16:00BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra From 11:30

Top Stories